Cornerback must be one of the hardest positions to play in college football.
Long-snapper and punter might be the only ones harder. Nobody thinks a lot about them unless something goes wrong.
It’s not too different at cornerback, which is just about the most thankless every-down position on the field — even more so than offensive lineman.
It seems whenever college football makes a rule change, it benefits the offense. Once upon a time, cornerbacks practically could mug receivers, and once downfield, they could wait for some quarterback to throw a wobbly pass that had almost as much of a chance of being intercepted as caught.
Now, cornerbacks are much more limited in what they can do to receivers, all of whom seem to be 6-foot-4 with the wing span of a vulture. And quarterbacks no longer throw those wobbly passes downfield. Before they even hit college campuses, they’ve spent so much time at all these camps, like the Manning Passing Academy, that they’ve got it down to an exact science. You’ve got 18-year-olds throwing lasers.
In the Southeastern Conference, if a cornerback can get a couple of interceptions, he has had a decent season. Meanwhile, he probably will give up his share of completions, leaving him exposed to coaches in the stands. Quarterbacks are taught to unload the ball so quickly these days, even an overmatched offensive lineman won’t give up enough sacks to draw the ire of fans as often as a cornerback.
So, considering all this and looking at the depth charts Alabama and Auburn released this week, think about who they’ll put on the field Saturday at cornerback. Auburn will go with Josh Holsey and Jonathan Jones, a pair of juniors who haven’t gained a ton of experience. Alabama will start Cyrus Jones and Bradley Sylve, also juniors. They struggled so much last year it didn’t seem they had a chance to start the 2014 season opener.
Yet here they all are. So, when you watch those four play Saturday, be kind. Cornerback isn’t exactly an easy job.
Sports Editor Mark Edwards: 256-235-3570. On Twitter @MarkSportsStar.